Independent Senator David Leyonhjelm, who is leading the new conservative push to kill Australia’s renewable energy target, is being advised by the former head of one of Australia’s most notorious climate denying and anti-wind groups.
Leyonhjelm, a self-described “libertarian”, is being advised Max Rheese – the former long-serving executive director of the Australian Environment Foundation – a spin off of the ultra-conservative think-tank, the Institute of Public Affairs.
The AEF describes itself as an “environmental NGO”, but it disputes the science of climate change. And it hates wind energy, urging all its supporters to attend the anti-wind rallies held last year in Canberra, which were hosted by conservative shock jock Alan Jones, the man who elicited the “wind farms are utterly offensive” comments from Treasurer Joe Hockey.
For a taste of what this environmental group thinks about climate science, see this speech in 2010 by then chairman Alex Stuart. One quote: “There is no link between man-made trace greenhouse gases and scenarios of climate catastrophe.” He labels such theories as “catastrophist” and are aimed at “reining in mankind.”
The AEF is also virulently anti-wind. Its web-site is almost entirely devoted to anti-wind stories. For a taste of what Rheese says about wind farms, this opinion piece is informative.
In it, Rheese describes the “fallacious myths perpetrated by those who believe wind power will save the planet”, slams doctors for rejecting the alleged health impacts of wind farms (numerous studies have failed to find any), and praises anti-wind senators John Madigan and Nick Xenophon.
Mike Barnard, in his piece, Fourteen wind energy myths debunked, said that on 9 May, 2011, Rheese, attempted to set a new record on Radio National’s conservative Counterpoint program in Australia. He managed 14 whoppers about wind energy in Australia in 17 short minutes.
This might go some way to partially explaining the anti-renewables position of Leyonhjelm, who has succeeded not just in getting yet another wind inquiry in the Senate, but is also proposing re-writing the rules of the RET that will deliver a windfall to decades-old hydro generators, and effectively stop new investment.
The AEF – led by Rheese – also sponsored the launch of the Australian Climate Science Coalition, which refers to climate change as the “global warming hoax”.
Rheese argues that: “Australia’s great competitive advantage is low-cost power from low-cost coal. It would be irresponsible to throw it away when grave questions surround the case for doing so.” In that, he seems pretty close to Tony Abbott and the rest of the coalition.
Sourcewatch described the AEF as a “front group” for the IPA, and noted its initial board included the IPA’s environment chief Jennifer Marohasy, a noted climate science denier, and Mike Nahan, the former head of the IPA who has since risen to become energy minister and treasurer in the WA state government.
Nahan once described AEF as “pro-biotechnology, pro-nuclear power, pro-modern farming, pro-economic growth, pro-business and pro-environment.” The AEF is pro-forestry, anti marine reserve, and Nahan once said there were more than enough whales for the whaling industry to survive. He said the environment was in the best shape it had every been.